August 15, 2008
I think my non-golf-playing spouse may have helped inspire my recent attempts to fix my golf swing by finally taking some golf lessons, as described in last week’s column.
During a business trip earlier this year to New York City, she bought me a three-pack of Titleist golf balls. It’s now on my golf bookshelf.
This box featured the logo for Carnegie Hall, the famous music house.
On the side of the package, and adorning each of the three golf balls inside, is a simple phrase:
Nice pun, all things considered.
It’s a very good recommendation, and not just for budding musicians dreaming of the day they appear on that hallowed stage.
It’s also a sound bit of advice for golfers–as it were.
Those golf balls just sat on that shelf, as a mute reminder that I should heed their message, until I finally broke through my pride and admitted I needed the help.
Like many other golfers, I sometimes confused warming up before a round with actual practice. By that I mean I make no plans to go out on the course after hitting a small bag of balls, but instead stay at the range, working on some part of the swing, or making the rounds of the putting green.
So when Shawnee golf pro Devon Peterson said that before my next lesson I should split a large bag of range balls on the newly learned quarter- and half-swings at least four or five times, I knew that was far more actual practice than I’d devoted to the game in quite a while.
I’ve now completed at least five such practice sessions since that first lesson, which as you may recall included learning a new right-hand grip, in addition to the two shortened swings.
The new grip is working pretty well, all things considered. With only the right fingers on the club, and with the right thumb on top of the left, it feels like I have nearly no control over my golf clubs with the right hand.
Peterson may tell me differently at my next lesson, but I have a suspicion that forcing me to relieve my former death-like hold on my clubs may have been one of his goals.
The quarter-swing, where the 8-iron’s shaft is stopped when parallel to the ground, and then swung forward, is now a lot easier to do well than when I first tried it. To a lesser extent, but still enough to keep my hopes up, my 6-iron half-swing is also making progress.
I’ve often heard touring golf professionals talk about their own practice routines, in which they hit hundreds of golf balls during each session. This is the first time I have come anywhere close to experiencing what they’ve been suggesting for all these years.
The quarter-swing also comes in very handy around the green. It works really nicely with a sand wedge in the rough, where there’s also a fair amount of green to cross before reaching the hole.
During the first lesson and thereafter, I also asked Peterson about his students during his long career in teaching golf, both at Shawnee and at the Atlantic City Country Club and other venues he’s plied his trade.
I asked him if he felt there were any differences in teaching ex-jocks, compared to his other students on the range.
Peterson said, “It actually depends on the sport, as well as the person. I had a lot of success with professional hockey players, who really wanted to learn. For others, especially some of the real standouts in their sports, not so much. They just assumed that because they were so good at their regular sport, they couldn’t possibly have any trouble playing something as simple as golf. Some of them finally gave up completely.”
Then he laughed, heartily.
After twenty years of playing golf, I’m not laboring under any such delusions myself, especially as an ex-jock of very modest accomplishment. On the other hand, I am definitely looking forward to the next lesson.